WASHINGTON -- The World Series champion Washington Nationals are 1-4 after losing three games in a row. Normally? Not a big deal. But it matters more in a 60-game, pandemic-shortened season.
Missing slugger Juan Soto, they've scored a grand total of four runs during the skid, including a 5-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday that included two outfielders colliding on a home run by Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero Jr., two errors by second baseman Starlin Castro that led to three unearned runs and one hit for Washington after the third inning.
"In a longer season, you get time to feel these things out," said Nationals shortstop Trea Turner, who was caught stealing in the sixth, one of the gaffes manager Dave Martinez noted afterward. "Now it's definitely magnified."
There's no doubt that Soto's absence is a big deal. He has been out since Opening Day because of a positive COVID-19 test.
"We definitely miss him," Turner said, "and we need him back."
Martinez agree, but he also wanted to set aside the scoring issues because, as he put it, "The hitting's going to come and go."
More worrisome to a skipper who turned this club around after it opened 2019 with a 19-31 mark were the other problems.
"The overall play. The defense. The baserunning. We've got to clean that up. We've got to play better," he said. "We've got to play better. Can't make those mental mistakes. Those are mental mistakes to me. And we'll get it. Sometimes when you're trying to create something, make things happen, you start overthinking or overanalyzing, just trying to do something aggressively. I want these guys just to relax and play baseball. Just have some fun."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.